Conflict may feel uncomfortable, but it's also costly to avoid. Putting off a tough conversation? Consider these strategies to get back on track.
When Susan hired her sister as a sales representative in her growing company she understood that it was a risky move. But her sister needed a job and Susan needed to increase sales, so why not give it a shot?
For two years, Susan's sister remained the lowest ranking producer on the sales force. Every family event, sales meeting, and sisterly shopping spree was weighed down by the elephant in the room; this under-performer--who happens to be a close relative--had to go.
This is just one example of the self-sabotage that entrepreneurs engage in because they want to avoid a difficult conversation. Sister or not, business owners drag their feet when it comes to dismissing or reassigning an ineffective employee. And what about those other problems that don't get addressed because avoiding them is so much easier? Things like lack of emotional and household support from a spouse, frequent and unnecessary disruptions by friends and family during work hours, and business relationships and arrangements that are no longer viable.
Come on, fess up. There's at least one thing in your life that merits a conversation, yet you avoid it because it's difficult to face.
Ironically, the pain and discomfort of putting these conversations off is usually worse than the dreaded discussion turns out to be. We tend to project all sorts of ugly scenarios, which may or may not occur. All of those "what if's" add up and staying put in the current situation just seems easier. So, we make excuses and talk ourselves into believing that someday things will change and we will never have to directly address the problem at all.
Is there a difficult conversation hanging over your head? Consider these points and dive in. Life is usually much better on the other side!
1. You're not the only one who is dissatisfied or unhappy.
When an employee is under-performing or a partnership not working out, it's usually because the other party is discontent as well. Most everyone wants to succeed and thrive in their job. An under-performer who leaves work each day with the knowledge that they didn't do their best doesn't feel good about it. This lack of motivation may exist because they are not in the right job, or in an industry that excites them. Consider that the person on the other side of this situation may be just as unhappy as you are. Set both of you free with an honest discussion about the facts and options!
2. There's always another side to the story.
It's easy to get caught up in our emotions when we are dissatisfied and disappointed. You may believe that you know why someone is acting the way they do, but you probably don't have a clue. Go into the conversation asking questions, rather than defending your position and making accusations. You may learn something that will change the whole picture and offer an easy solution to your problem. Your mother may call you during work hours because she believes it's less disruptive than calling you while you're at home with the kids. She may feel that she's being considerate, while you perceive her as being needy and rude. A minor correction to her thought process could solve the whole issue and make you both more comfortable.
3. Now think: What is this delay costing you?
Living with a difficult situation costs time, money, and loads of energy. You may think it's easier to leave it alone, but preoccupation and agitation take a lot of energy out of you. Also think about what the situation is costing you financially. Disruptions, rocky relationships, poor employee performance, and failing partnerships are money-suckers. Try keeping a few notes on the topic for a week or so. How often do you have to stop what you're doing because of it? Does it result in lost business and missed opportunities? Do you have to trouble-shoot or step into something that you really shouldn't be involved in? Lastly, how much time to you waste dwelling on it and replaying things in your mind? Once you calculate these emotional and financial costs the next steps may not be as daunting as they are today.
Make a list of these problems and weigh the pros and cons of addressing them. If this isn't enough to move you forward then find a coach to work through it with you. A professional perspective will make all the difference.
MARLA TABAKA is a small-business adviser who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness. @MarlaTabaka